PATRICK Reichelt scored the game-winner as the Philippine Azkals squeaked past Singapore 1-0 in their opening match in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Tuesday at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
Reichelt hit the breakthrough in the 78th minute in an encouraging start to the reign of Sven Goran Erikkson who, together with senior adviser Scott Cooper, are looking to end the Azkals' dry spell in the biennial competition.
It's a very big win, a very important win. These three points are very very important for us. I think we deserve it. I think we were the better team, one-nil, it could have been two so I'm very happy," said Erikkson who got his first taste of Asean football in his 41 years as a manager.
"A big thank you to the players and the staff, the coaches because I cannot do everything. That's impossible," added the former England manager.
Reichelt weaved past the Singaporean backline inside the penalty area, before sneaking the ball past Hassan Sunny.
Phil Younghusband, who was celebrating his 100th cap for the Philippines, started that attack as he released Reichelt on the right flank before the Ceres Negros attacker converted, much to the delight of the Panaad crowd.
Reichelt's goal averted a repeat of the Azals' result two years ago against Singapore when they were held to a scoreless draw in Bocaue. The Azkals eventually failed to make the knockout stage that year.
The win also put the Azkals at the top of the group alongside Thailand with three points after a game.
Singapore and Indonesia also have three points apiece though they have already played two games in the competition. Indonesia earlier beat bottom-dweller Timor Leste 3-1 in the other pairing in the group.
The Azkals will play Timor Leste on neutral ground in Malaysia this Saturday before hosting Asean powerhouse Thailand next Tuesday in Bacolod.